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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rublyovka Land Deal Is Mitvol's New Target

After rising to prominence as the scourge of Western oil and gas companies, deputy chief of the environmental watchdog agency Oleg Mitvol has turned his sights onto alleged land sale irregularities in the affluent suburban district of Rublyovka.

The natural resources watchdog's inquiry comes in the wake of investigations carried out by the office of the Moscow region prosecutor, which has contested the transfer of land from the former Zhukov and Barvikha sanatoriums to private development firms.

As Kommersant reported Tuesday, Mitvol's agency sent letters to the Prosecutor General complaining that the sale of the 99-hectare section of land was "detrimental to the state's interests."

"I have sent a letter of notification to the Prosecutor General," Mitvol told Komsomolskaya Pravda in an interview Wednesday. "I told them that in 2001, around 99 hectares of land belonging to the Barvikha and Zhukov sanatoriums were sold to Country-Pro, practically free of charge, for 54.5 million rubles [$2 million]."

Mitvol maintained that the land in question was taken from its proper owners by a decree from Odintsovo Mayor Alexander Gladyshev and other local officials.

Matters are further complicated by the fact that some of the area's current residents include influential businessmen such as Rosneft CEO Sergei Bogdanchikov and restaurant magnate Arkady Novikov.

The contested grounds, which were formerly managed by the presidential administration, were illegally sold to a private development firm, Mitvol's letter said, although they were officially designated as part of the state forest reserve.

Subsequently, the development firm converted the territory, which used to be the premises of a Kremlin-managed sanatorium, into scores of individual residential stockholdings. Mitvol's agency alleges that this was all done with the official approval of local authorities, although the redevelopment was in breach of the forestry code, which does not allow for transactions involving the division of territory within the state forest reserve.

Corruption scandals surrounding the real estate sector in Moscow's suburbs date back to 2004, when the City Prosecutor's Office began proceedings over the illegal sale of land in Odintsovo. Regional arbitration courts have recently begun annulling transfer agreements in the district, which has affected hundreds of elite homeowners.